We accidentally slept in today and almost missed Scoppio del Carro (history below). We quickly suited up Winston and headed out for a brisk walk across the river. We got there with a few minutes to spare and hung out with the oxen in Piazza della Repubblica...Winston did not know what to think about those HUGE animals.
By accident, we happened down a street that ended up being perfect for watching the actual exploding of the cart. So much fun!
The Scoppio del Carro, or Explosion of the Cart, is a mixed pagan/religious ceremony. Marking both Easter and Spring, the successful ignition of the cart guarantees good crops, a successful harvest, stable civic life and bountiful trade, as well as signifying the passage of new holy fire to light those extinguished on Good Friday.
A thirty-foot carved and painted wooden cart (the present version is over 150 years old) is pulled by flower- bedecked white oxen from Porta al Prato to Piazza del Duomo. A mechanical dove ‘flies’ down a line through the open doors of the cathedral, picks up ‘fire’ at the altar, returns to the cart and ignites the explosion of one of the best day-time fireworks display in the world.
It was during the pontificate of Leo X (Giovanni de’Medici, 1513-1521), the ‘colombina‘ – the mechanical bird, shaped like a dove with an olive branch in its beak – was used for the first time. At the Gloria of the Easter Mass, the deacon uses holy fire kindled from the stone chips – obtained during the crusades of 1099 from the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem – to light a fuse attached to the dove.